Justice Academy and medical students join massive effort: Action against chikungunya

POSTED: 02/4/14 12:37 PM

St. Maarten – So far, there have been 40 confirmed cases of infections with the chikungunya virus on the Dutch side of St. Maarten. So far, none of the patients had to be hospitalized, but the situation is considered so serious that now a massive effort is underway to eliminate mosquito-breeding places and to draw up a risk assessment chart of all neighborhoods.

Public Health Minister Cornelius de Weever said at a press conference yesterday that a joint approach is necessary to bring the situation under control. The Collective Preventive Services, the Ministry of Vromi, the American University of the Caribbean in Cupecoy and cadets of the Justice Academy are involved in a large-scale effort that will begin today.

Thirty cadets of the Justice Academy – 13 from customs, 17 from immigration – plus four chief instructors and 50 students from the AUC will take part in the project.

AUC-students and Justice Academy cadets will visit neighborhoods and assess potentially undesirable situations. They will look at the state of the houses, the yards and sheds. Their information will enable CPS to identify high-risk areas. The students and the cadets will be in the field starting today from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. By Friday they will have concluded the first phase of their work.

CPS-head Dr. Virginia Asin-Oostburg emphasized the seriousness of the chikungunya-threat. “The virus has been around for a long time, ever since the fifties of last century. It was never on this side of the ocean, but in October we have identified the first case.”

Dr. Asin said that the chikungunya-virus can only be transmitted through the bites of mosquitoes that carry infected blood. “Chikungunya is similar to dengue, but there are differences. Patients will feel severe joint pain. This is our special concern, because when you get the infection, the joint pain can stay with you forever. – for the rest of your life.”

This is why prevention is essential, but it is also possible, Dr. Asin said. She described the symptoms as fever, joint pain and muscle pain. “It is important to get the support of everyone,” she said.

Part of that support comes from the Ministry of Vromi that started already two weeks ago with a cleanup campaign. “This is not going the way we had expected,” said Edelmiro Jansen of Vromi. “We still see a lot of large items in yards that can hold water.”

Stagnant water is the favorite breeding place for mosquitoes, so Vromi urges citizens to remove items from their yards that can hold water. Citizens who have such items in their yards are urged to call one of the following numbers for pick up: 542 42 89, 586 68 04 (Cole Bay), 520 18 87 (Cul de Sac basin), 520 55 26 (Sucker Garden / Dutch Quarter), or 520 01 55 (Clean St. Maarten).

Jansen said that his department is on the lookout for car wrecks and that it has already removed quite a few of them during the past couple of weeks. “We give people two days to remove them themselves,” he said. “After that we do it ourselves and the wrecks go straight into the shredder.”

So far, most confirmed cases of chikungunya-infections have occurred in St. Peters, Cay Hill and Dutch Quarter.

Dr. Asin said yesterday that her department receives on a daily basis reports about suspected chikungunya infections. “We send the information for testing to the Netherlands and we learn within two or three days whether these are indeed chikungunya-infections,” she said.

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